Daily Archives: July 12, 2015

SPLATOON Review: Nintendo in a nutshell.

I’ve been playing this game almost nonstop for over a month now. I don’t understand what’s going on.

I have this check list of pros and cons and the number of cons grossly outweighs the pros. I keep thinking of something new that irks me, annoys me, downright angers me and–in typical Nintendo fashion–“expectedly disappoints” me.

That’s the funny thing about Nintendo. They are unfairly held to a higher standard. They’ve perfected—literally perfected—the art of game making, but it is a very specific kind of game that they make, with very “Nintendo” quirks, a very “Nintendo” look and very “Nintendo” mechanics. Those mechanics are so refined that when they occasionally don’t work (the way we expect a game from Nintendo to work), then their fans very harshly criticize them, in ways none of SquareEnix’s fans, or Konami’s fans, or Activision’s fans do.

On the other hand, fans have resigned themselves to the fact that Nintendo is simply not going to play ball the way other game-makers do. Detailed voice acting, cinema-quality cutscenes, and robust online features are not typical of a Nintendo production. After all these years, there’s no sense in expecting otherwise. Nintendo is not EA (and let’s all be thankful for that). They look at game making as an art form. They don’t play by everyone else’s rules as a result.

Read the internet Nintendo-sites about what fans want to see in their newest home console (codenamed “NX,” due, it seems, sometime in 2017). People are tossing out specs that would rival whatever Microsoft is planning for the next XBOX. People are expecting third parties to commit to it like they do to Sony because they expect it will have a 1 Terabyte hard drive and launch with online servers ready to host millions upon millions of gamers. It’s not going to happen. Nintendo will do what they always do. They will release an underpowered, gimmick-inspired machine that plays Mario, Zelda and Kirby, while countless other franchises like F-Zero and 2D Metroid sit on the shelf because no one at the Big N has thought up a special “hook” for them to justify their development (beside, you know, the fans wanting them).

The next system will be limited in what it can do relative to the competition. The cost will be less than what Sony and Microsoft offer, making them a perfect “second system” to either the PS5 or the XboxTwo (name pending). Because of that, no one will buy the third party offerings for the NX, opting instead to buy them on the higher-powered “first system.” The NX will become, essentially, a Nintendo-only machine, with long delays in between major releases, frustrated early adopters, and general disappointment that the system isn’t really “competing” with Sony and Microsoft (while Nintendo execs continue to insist that they don’t compete with anyone or worry what the rest of the video game marketplace is doing). Halfway through the NX’s life, fans will start to hear rumors and rumblings about Nintendo’s next home console, and the cycle will repeat, with fans sure that “this time” Nintendo will “get it right.”

I said all of that in an article about Splatoon because I feel like this game sums up my thoughts on Nintendo in general. I have about nine cons (avoiding things like criticizing the little mini game that you can play while waiting for a match to load; because they didn’t have to do that at all, so why be critical) and three pros (avoiding things like praising Nintendo for how well the stages are balanced, or the sharp framerate or all the little things Nintendo makes look so effortless)…

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CON: PLAYING OFFLINE IS POINTLESS

There are a few little side quests you can do, and there are people to talk to, but this is the most purely “online” game Nintendo has ever made. This is their way of getting in on the Call of Duty craze (about five years after its peak I think, but that’s Nintendo for you), but even Call of Duty has a more robust offline campaign than this.

CON: FRIENDS CAN’T PLAY ONLINE TOGETHER

Sure I can use friend codes to play with friends online, but the odds of me finding a friend somewhere outside of my home who (A) has a Wii U, (B) has this particular game, (C) is playing it at the same time I am, and (D) wants to devote the three hours I typically spend playing it (at a minimum) are slim to none. I’m much more likely to play with someone sitting right next to me in my living room, whether it be a friend coming over to visit or when me and my boys sit down to play. There is an offline multiplayer mode, but it is nothing compared to the meyhem and fun of the online battles. Why cant we both jump in and play together as two members of the four member team?

CON: NO COMMUNICATION BETWEEN TEAM MEMBERS

Speaking of your team. I find myself talking to them a lot. Usually at first it’s me yelling “if YOU will cover me, I will shoot that guy on the tower” or “YOU take the roller and go left, and YOU take brush up middle; I’ll go right with the gun and pick off enemies as they approach.” but of course they can’t hear me. I do a lot of yelling. Usually halfway through it’s me cursing the ground my idiot team members walk on because they either disperse to the four corners of the map, leaving me high and dry, or they bumble around and cover the same spot with ink because they don’t know the other one had planned on covering that spot and neither of them will leave to find another spot and I just WANT TO KILL MY OWN TEAMMATES BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT WORKING TOGETHER! But of course they can’t hear me.

Why? Because Nintendo.

CON: “CONNECTIVITY ERRORS” AND “THE SERVER IS DOWN”

Finally, when it comes to the online gaming…it doesn’t always work. And I know that sometimes an online game is going to have a server crash or something like that. I get it. But when you’re playing a ranked battle and you’ve lost two in a row (largely because of the previous “con”) and you finally have a victory in sight and then the game drops you like its hot…that can be a bit maddening. At first I thought it was my own internet connection being unstable, but nope. All the other online games I have work just fine. And my internet speed is plenty fast. A little googling shows this is a common problem and probably is the result of Nintendo not being very experienced with such an online-heavy game.

CON: GYROSCOPE CONTROLS

Sometimes I want to hold the controller and still scratch my nose. When that happens, I don’t want to suddenly look at the sky. Call of Duty doesn’t need gyro controls. GoldenEye didn’t need gyro controls. Why does Splatoon have to have gryo controls? I get that Nintendo wants to “show everyone what the Wii U Gamepad can do” but so much of that has come off as shoehorning ideas into games when simple, classic, traditional controls would have worked just as well without the occasional hiccups.

CON: TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT

So. Much. Scrolling. I kept waiting for the gun salesman, after his tenth paragraph explaining the newest gun in stock, to pull a “Kaepora Gaebora” and ask me if he should repeat that or just say it over again. Every time you turn on the game you have to sit through those annoying announcers tell you what the two stages of the hour are. Talk to the cat outside the lobby and it’s a text bubble. Talk to one of the NPC’s around the single player campaign, and it’s a text bubble. Over and over. This isn’t 1993. If it’s not too much to ask, can we cut down the text bubbles, or at the very least have a way to skip them entirely if you stumble upon them? It used to be, a simple press of the “B” button pulled your right out of the conversation. Not anymore. Now you have to sit through War and Peace before you can buy shoes.

CON: NINTENDO “VOICE ACTING”

Consider this a “part-B” to the previous entry. I am so sick of Nintendo’s “gibberish” voice acting. They use it for everything now. They use it in Zelda, in their RPGs, and almost every game not named “Star Fox.” Which raises the question: If they can do it with Star Fox (and they usually do it well), why not all their other games? Mario can spout off a few words. Why not Princess Zelda? It’s just another example of Nintendo cutting what they consider a non-essential corner.

CON: LIMITED BY DESIGN

You only get two levels, that as far as I can tell are selected randomly back and forth after each battle, every hour. I understand Nintendo’s decision: It keeps the online community from being too spread out, and since Nintendo games aren’t usually known for their strong online presences, it’s smart to keep the ones you do have online, in one of only four places (two ranked battle sites, and two regular battle sites). But still, when the battles are usually over within three minutes, you’re looking at some twenty playthroughs before the hour changes. That’s a long time to see the same two arenas over and over. At first it’s fine because you’re honing a strategy, but eventually it wears you down.

CON: REPETITIVE TO THE POINT OF SHALLOWNESS

Play a non-ranked online fight, and it’s the same three minute go-round every time. Sometimes your team is filled with geniuses, sometimes not. Sometimes they run in circles or jump right into enemy fire, and sometimes they actually display some creativity. Either way the only constant is you. I pick a weapon and go with it (usually a roller), never stopping to change because then I’d lose my team. I play and I play and I play. “Do you want to play again?” it asks. Why yes I do. For the tenth time. Over and over. And after an hour, the levels change but nothing else does. It’s still the same three minute go-round. Ranked battles have a little more variety with the Tower fights and the Zone battles. But that’s it. If that’s the game when you start playing, that’ll be that game when you quit after your 15th fight. That combined with the worthless single player campaign and limited local-multiplayer modes and you have perhaps the most shallow major release by Nintendo in ages.

Group those nine cons into two categories: There’s problems on a technical level and problems on a design level.

And yet…

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PRO: IT IS SO MUCH FUN

The reason I keep going back, and keep playing even after two hours, is because I play it with a big stupid grin on my face the entire time. Sometimes Call of Duty feels like work. This game never does. It is a true “game.”

PRO: IT IS HILARIOUSLY ADDICTIVE

Yes it’s shallow, but so were all the best arcade games of yesteryear. After the first level of Pac Man, you’ve literally seen it all. The game just speeds things up to make it interesting, but that’s it. Donkey Kong is four stages of jumping over barrels and hammering fireballs. Tetris is the same five pieces and the same narrow board. That’s it. Those games are classic and just as addictive and “pick up and play” as ever. Start up a Zelda play-through and you can expect a good five hours before the “game” even starts. Metal Gear Solid is now more movie than game. This game is like dropping a quarter in the machine. You just hop in and start playing. And when it’s over, win or lose, you drop another quarter in and keep playing some more. I once had a night where I started playing just as my kids went to bed (around 9:30pm) and when I was finished I looked down to see it was 1am. I couldn’t stop.

PRO: IT IS HARD WITHOUT FEELING FRUSTRATING

There is nothing better in a game than knowing you know how to solve the puzzle but are just not good enough yet to do it. This game never makes me hate it. It makes me hate myself for getting careless or for not paying attention behind me, etc. As much as I yell at my screen at my teammates for their boneheaded decisions, they are probably yelling at me for something I did. I have never felt like the game was cheap, however. I suppose it helps that your opponents are almost always other human beings, and not the AI. Either way, I’ve never once lost and felt like the game was cheating in order to artificially increase the difficulty. Because of that, no matter how many times I lose, I am always ready to go back and play it again.

Each of the three pros basically explain the same thing: The game is just too much fun. The cons may outnumber the pros but the pros are so much greater in terms of the emotion they bring out. All of Splatoon’s mistakes vanish away when you steal a glance at your map and see that your color is dominating the board. The thrill of seeing your tower closing in on its destination in a ranked battle more than makes up for the occasional “connectivity error” or “gyroscope go crazy” moment.

The game isn’t perfect. But it’s so much fun so often that it doesn’t matter.

If that’s not Nintendo in a nutshell, nothing is.

9/10 – a must buy

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SPLATOON Review: Nintendo in a nutshell.

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Interview: PJ Black aka Justin Gabriel

After a five year spell with WWE Justin Gabriel quit the company just before the Royal Rumble. He has since signed with Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling as well as working on the Independent circuit.

The 34-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa is a second-generation wrestler and as well as wrestling in his home country he also wrestled in the UK before signing with WWE.

During his time in WWE Justin was a member of the Nexus and a three-time WWE Tag Team champion along with Heath Slater.

We caught up with PJ to talk about the original series of NXT, if the Nexus angle should have lasted longer, playing The Bunny and why he quit WWE plus much more.

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You grew up in South Africa and spent a lot of time in England wrestling, what was that like?

I went to college in England and lived there for five years and worked on the independent circuit. I started for FWA and got some extra training under Mark Slone and Alex Shane, it was awesome I really enjoyed my time over there.

Since leaving the WWE I have been back over to England. I have appeared on some Indy shows, which have been a lot of fun seeing some familiar faces and a lot of new faces as well.

Your dad was a wrestler as well, what was it like wrestling in South Africa?

Growing up in the eighties and nineties it was considered one of the territories but not many people knew that. I remember being a little boy and Fit Finlay and William Regal coming to stay there for a year. I used to watch Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan job to our champion – there wasn’t the internet or YouTube back then so nobody knew who they were there.

It was pretty cool and surreal, I started going to these shows from a young age. When my dad started promoting I stated working for him and it was a totally different scene. Obviously when I went over to the UK it was different and then America was completely different again.

Who were some of the wrestlers that you enjoyed watching whilst growing up and influenced you to get into the sport?

I was a big fan of guys like, Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and Macho Man Randy Savage. Guys who were wrestling for the Intercontinental Title at the time, that was more of the style that I was into.

Since leaving WWE you’ve been back over to the UK to do some Indy shows, how do the UK Indy shows compare to the Indy shows in the US?

It is pretty much the same in the UK and the US, everybody is trying to follow that fast pace style, it feels like all of the styles have just meshed. Everybody is taking the strong style with the Lucha Libre style and just mixing it together and that seems to be the Indy niche right now.

It took me a little while to get used to that again but it is actually quite fun, which is the most fun part of wrestling.

After spending time in South Africa and England how did the move to America come about?

It was kind of a hard transition, when I signed it took WWE about a year to get my papers and I literally moved over with just my wrestling boots. It was like starting from scratch, I had no money in my pocket, I didn’t have anything, I was staying at a friends house, it just all happened so quickly.

I was in FCW, the developmental territory in Florida, where I still live today and I was only there for ten months before getting called up for NXT season 1.

Everybody now knows NXT, but what was your time in FCW like?

It was awesome, I had a blast. Dr. Tom Prichard was amazing, I wrestled for like ten to twelve years before that but I learned so much in the ten months from him and Steve Keirn, more than in the ten years working across the world on the independent circuit.

NXT now isn’t even like a developmental territory anymore; it is run like a separate promotion. I’m pretty sure they’re going to start running international tours soon.

You spent some time in NXT, what was that like and what was Triple H like as a boss?

He is doing a great job with it, I tried to go back there for a while but they kind of blocked me because they wanted to do their own thing and I just think the timing wasn’t right. If I were to go back there now it would be like perfect timing.

I think Triple H is doing a good job with NXT, he has got his way of doing things and then the big boss has his own way of doing things. Sometimes they clash as you can see on TV, but seeing as though Hunter is in charge of NXT most of the time he gets his way, and I think he is doing a great job with it.

What was it like being a part of the first season of NXT and the challenges?

Some of them I enjoyed and some of them I didn’t. I didn’t like the fact we didn’t know what was coming up and it was live television, so it felt like we were just being made fools out of on live TV.

Maybe people don’t know this but nothing on that show was scripted or planned, we were just thrown in the deep end, matches and promos weren’t even planned. I kind of liked the challenges because I’m a pretty athletic guy and I won a few of them, I actually think I won more challenges than anyone else.

It had its pros and cons, the fact that it was on live TV and you couldn’t retake anything was kind of a con for most people but for me it was cool because I prefer it that way.

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What was that night like when you made your debut as the Nexus and destroyed the ringside area on Raw?

That was pretty cool, it is probably one of my favourite moments of all time. We now live in a day and age where it is very hard to come up with a unique storyline or character because everything is borrowed or revamped. I think what we did that day was pretty unique.

They told us to do whatever we wanted and anything goes and then when we got back behind the curtain and heard about Daniel Bryan choking Justin Roberts they fired Daniel. We didn’t know what was going to happen and were asking ourselves was is too far, and for a while after that we were treading on eggshells.

When Daniel came back at SummerSlam we didn’t expect that at all, so that was a cool twist – it makes me wonder sometimes did they plan that all along.

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Do you feel the Nexus angle could have lasted longer than it did?

I definitely think so, I think we should never have lost at SummerSlam, we should have kept that momentum going but there was a lot of politics involved in that which I won’t even go into but I do feel that angle should have gone on longer.

The Shield went on for two or three years whilst the Nexus was only around for six months. We should’ve at least gone on to Survivor Series or WrestleMania, that would have been perfect.

You can say what you like about The Shield and in my opinion they were awesome. They got it right with The Shield but they took part of the idea from the Nexus.

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What was it like winning the Tag Team titles with Heath Slater?

They were great times, it was pretty cool. Heath is a very good friend of mine and for the first three or four years we actually travelled together, so I would be spending five out of seven days a week with this guy. He is still one of my best buddies and is just a great guy who is super talented, I don’t think many fans realize how talented he actually is.

It’s kind different when your actually in the business, you grow up idolizing some people but then when you start working with them they’re really not that good. Heath is the opposite, everyone thinks he’s cool, funny and entertaining but in the ring he is so freaking good.

Winning the tag team titles with Heath on three occasions was really fun and I hope we can have another run one day.

You were also The Bunny, what was that like?

I wasn’t too keen at the beginning but I wasn’t doing anything so I thought oh cool it could be fun. The first few times I went out there it was fine and I was taking bumps in the suit, then it stopped becoming fun and they wanted a bunny reveal.

I had so many ideas for this and they had a lot of ideas as well, but none of their ideas made much sense. My ideas were cooler and funnier and everyone liked it but they just never went in that direction.

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What were some of your highlights from your time in WWE?

It’s hard to pick just one. That whole Nexus angle was just awesome because I got to work with the likes of Chris Jericho, Edge and John Cena on a nightly bases even on non televised shows which was like five times a week which was pretty surreal.

All of the WrestleMania’s I’ve been to were just awesome, we did an eight-man tag at WrestleMania when Heath and I were the tag team champions. My mum got to come and she had never seen me wrestle so that was a pretty cool moment for me.

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You actually quit WWE just before the Royal Rumble, what was your decision for that?

It was hard, there wasn’t just one or two things that happened, it was a build up of six months. I had all these new ideas for new character builds, but it seemed like every time I had these ideas and was gaining momentum something happened that would stop this momentum.

It began to get really frustrating in all truth it was probably longer than six months, it was more probably like a year. It was just frustration on frustration and on the day I quit it wasn’t just one thing that happened that made me do it.

I didn’t realize the Royal Rumble was coming up, I didn’t anticipate that, I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened on the day, I just had enough, I’m 34-years-old, I have all of this stuff that I want to show people and if WWE won’t let me do it on TV then I’m just going to go and do it on the independents where people can appreciate it.

I see myself as more of an artist, I don’t really care about how much money I make, for me it’s more about the art of professional wrestling. There are a lot of guys that will just hang around because Vince will give everyone a shot and some guys will just hang around thinking that tomorrow will be their shot and then the next thing you know three years have gone by.

One year went by and I realized it wasn’t going to happen and I couldn’t wait any longer and that is the reason I quit. There are guys there that will just hang around waiting for their shots, who knows if it’s going to happen, it’s all a timing thing.

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What are your thoughts on the WWE Network – do you think more could be done to showcase the current roster on the network?

That was another frustrating thing for me, we had a network, we have 24 hour programming and we could fit so many programmes on there. We pitched a cruiserweight show, we pitched a hardcore show, we pitched all of these different shows which never came to fruition.

How would you describe Vince McMahon as a boss?

Crazy genius, he is awesome, I love him.

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